Weekend Briefing No. 308

Welcome to the weekend, the new year and the new decade!

As many of you know, last year I focused my reading on the topics of race and personal finance. I’m on a constant quest to not just gain more knowledge, but to grow in wisdom. So this year, I’m looking to the greatest historical thinkers in order to root myself in time-tested wisdom. Most of my reading this year will be on philosophy. This is a topic I’ve dabbled in and taken one grad school course in, but would love to start afresh. So my question to you is who / what should I be reading. I’m looking for primary texts as well as primers and books that will put the different movements in context. I look forward to reading your suggestions. Thanks.

But, for now, some thoughts about 2020… 

Prime Numbers

75 – It’s been 75 years since World War 2. When World War 2 started, the Civil War felt as far away to Americans as WW2 feels to us now

60 If you’re 60 or older, you were born closer to the 1800s than today.

25 – It’s been 25 years since Forest Gump. Remember when Jurassic Park, The Lion King, and Forrest Gump came out in theaters? Closer to the moon landing than today.

Best of New Zealand

New Zealand was amazing. If you want to see some photographic proof, check out my Instagram. I’ve created a comprehensive guide + google map with 100+ locations. But in true Weekend Briefing style, I’ve also curated a summary of my favorites for you, including the best: (1) Day Hike: Harris Saddle. (2) Multi-day Trek: Kepler Track, (3) Thing to do: An expedition cruise on the Spirit of Enderby with Heritage Expeditions; (4) Restaurant: Ortega in Wellington; (5) Place to Stay: Camp Glenorchy just outside Queenstown; (6) Cocktail: The Last Word in Christchurch. Click the link to see my full Best of New Zealand list. kylewestaway.com  

Toms in 2020

Toms – the shoe company not the toothpaste company – has a $306.5 million senior secured term loan due in October 2020, of which $299 million is outstanding. Fitch Ratings noted that chances were high that Toms would default this year on its debt. Toms has struggled with a longer-than-expected turnaround effort and a debt load that matures in late 2020. Bain Capital bought a 50% stake in the business in 2014. Some of the company’s debt stems from Bain’s 2014 leveraged buyout, which was valued at about $625 million. So, last week Toms announced that it is handing ownership to investors – led by Jefferies Financial Group Inc., Nexus Capital Management LP and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. – in an out-of-court recapitalization that includes restructuring $300 million in debt and investing $35 million in the business. It begs the question whether the leveraged buyout is the right structure for a socially-minded company. I’ll continue to think about this. Wall Street Journal (6 minutes)

Sustainable Finance 2020

Energy stocks just haven’t kept up with the broader market, which could push investors to look more closely at whether fossil fuels are really a worthwhile investments. A Stanford University study says phasing out fossil fuels and running the entire world on clean energy would cost $73 trillion but could pay for itself in under seven years. Still only 754 companies have made science-based targets to keep their emissions within a 2 degree global warming scenario. “Most organizations that have committed to science-based targets cannot articulate in detail how they are going to meet it, especially to 2050,” said Bruno Sarda, president of CDP North America. “But if you set a goal that’s 30 years out and you already know how to meet it, then that’s not a good enough goal.” Bloomberg (7 minutes)  

Tech in 2020

Tech predictions for 2020: (1) 5G Is Coming (No, Really This Time). Just a few weeks ago, T-Mobile began to roll out its low-band 5G network, which stretches beyond street corners and into the great indoors, unlike the higher-band networks, but isn’t as fast. AT&T is set to do the same in early 2020. (2) Field of Streams. Let’s consult our 2020 calendars: In April, we’ll see Comcast’s Peacock, the new streaming home of “Parks and Recreation” and “Saturday Night Live.” That same month Quibi, a new mobile-focused streaming service from media magnate Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, arrives. In May, HBO Max, the new home of “Friends” and “Game of Thrones,” joins the fray. (3) Unicorns on the Endangered List. How do you turn a $47 billion startup into an $8 billion distressed asset? First, you shake off the pixie dust. WeWork’s colossal implosion will long serve as the prime example of the excesses of Silicon Valley’s Unicorn era (despite the fact that it’s a New York-based company). For years, investors fawned over founders, expecting disruption of industries and growth at all costs. They’d hand over big money and in return ask for little control, resulting in “unicorns”—startups worth over $1 billion. Wall Street Journal (11 minutes)

Social Networking in 2020

Here are some social media predictions from Casey Newton: (1) The flight from feeds to curation. Algorithms fade a bit into the background in 2020 as human editors return to the big aggregators. (2) A deepfake app goes mainstream in the US. But Ben Cunningham (ex-Facebook) predicts some machine-learning-based video editing app will take off in 2020, which will further erode the concept of fact and truth. (3) The next big social network is email. Newsletters are the new websites, and expect to see communities growing up around them in interesting new ways. I’ve been saying this for the past 5+ years! The Interface (8 minutes)

Trust in 2020

The latest Gallup poll indicates there has been a slight improvement over the past decade, but big business still trails the presidency, banks, criminal justice and the church when it comes to credibility. Just 23% Americans say that they trust Big Business. Distrust worsens as people feel increasingly powerless in their dealings with big business. A poll conducted this year by the Pew Research Center found that 81% of U.S. adult respondents said they have very little control over the data companies collect and that risks of handing over information outweigh the benefits. Pew found that about a quarter of American users deleted Facebook after its privacy scandal emerged, for instance. Wall Street Journal (8 minutes)

Books in 2020

Adam Grant released a list of interesting books due out this year. Some of my favorites are: (1) Upstream by Dan Heath –  on learning how to prevent problems. (2) Together by Vivek Murthy – on the epidemic of loneliness. (3) Tightrope by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn – on how public policies have hurt working-class families and ponder possibilities for change. (3) Eat a Peach by David Chang – on his life. Linkedin (8 minutes)


I’m starting off the year re-reading one of my favorite books. Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Have you ever felt the urge to declutter your work life? Do you often find yourself stretched too thin? Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized? Are you frequently busy but not productive? Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas? If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the Essentialist. The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter. By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy—instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us. Essentialism is not one more thing—it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to do less, but better, and declutter and organize their own their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come. Amazon

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Jan Baborák

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Weekend Wisdom

Less, but better.Dieter Rams

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